By Bridgette M. Redman
No matter what the art form, the artists creating it share a common goal: connection. Whether they are seeking to connect to a concept, an idea, an audience, a reader, a viewer, a listener, the past, the present or the future, the act of creation is ultimately a form of communication and sharing. For performance artist and poet Natasha T. Miller, that is the most crucial part of the work she does.
“It’s the connection to other people,” says Miller, a 28-year-old native Detroiter. “If I can get people to listen to me, I can change minds and change views just by speaking words that are coming to me from my heart and my head. That’s what really appeals to me about my poetry.”
As someone who didn’t know much about poetry when she first started writing and performing it, Miller has used the medium to say powerful things about numerous topics, especially about being an African American, being a woman and being gay. She performs at poetry slams, communicates her ideas through social media, has published two books, and is working on a documentary about a Detroit transgender teen who was murdered. She was the 2012 Kresge Artist Fellow in the Performing Arts.
On April 13 midway through Art X Detroit: Kresge Arts Experience, she’ll present “The Biggest, Gayest Play Ever.” The performance will take place at 8 p.m. at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. It will feature several artists performing poetry through several different mediums, from dance to the spoken word, to acting to playing instruments.
“I booked these different artists from different parts of the country,” Miller says. “Most were poets, but some were singers and artists in different art forms. They came out and performed work tailored to the LGBTQ community. We’re using other disciplines to bring out the poetry. It is about the poetry, but we’re going to bring the poetry to life with other art forms.”
Art X Detroit features Kresge eminent artists and artist fellows. The multidisciplinary event opens on April 10 and runs through April 14. The visual arts exhibition will remain open until April 28. The free program takes place at more than 12 different venues in Midtown Detroit and includes dance and musical performances, literary readings, workshops, panel discussions, public art and special exhibitions.
Miller says her main message to anyone in the LGBTQ community is to just hold on and to believe that whoever you are is who you were meant to be and who God intended you to be. The pieces she writes draw from her own experiences and the experiences of others.
“I enjoy the pieces that are about my own struggles,” Miller says. “I read a lot of pieces about the LGBTQ community, about being a black woman, about ex-girlfriends. The pieces that are for me and for my healing process and how I feel growing up or overcoming things – those are the pieces that really resonate with me. Every time I perform them, I can feel a part of myself healing.”
Miller said her own experience as a lesbian was made easier by having a very loving and supporting family.
“One day I had a boyfriend in middle school, the next day I had a girlfriend,” Miller says. “No one in my family shunned me or shut me out. No one made a big deal out of it.”
Miller said that in high school there were several women in her social circle who were dating other women.
“They didn’t coerce me or force me. They just showed me this different lifestyle and I recognized myself in this life and that it was a part of me,” Miller says. “It didn’t define me, but I knew it was a part of me. From 10th grade, I knew that was the way I wanted to love.”
As part of her performance, Miller will unveil the trailer to the documentary she is producing about Michelle Hilliard, a transgender teen who was killed in Detroit in 2011. The film, “TransParent,” puts the spotlight on Detroit’s transgender community as well as telling the story of a mother who loses her child.
The Biggest, Gayest Play Ever
8 p.m. April 13
Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
315 E. Warren, Detroit